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First Ride of 2016   3 comments

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March 27th is not the earliest date for my first ride of the year but this 2016 debut was probably the most enjoyable early season ride I’ve  ever had.
With sunshine and a temperature of 12C I was able to wear cycling shorts and was very comfortable.
Before I could hit the road I had to do a little prep. Fortunately, the mountain bike was in pretty good shape – the one thing attention needed was the chain. I was out of my usual dry wax based lube but found some of this:

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It worked fine and I was soon able to head out on the road (without squeaks).
My ride took me from downtown via bike paths and Ada Boulevard to Rundle Park and then on to Hermitage Park. There was only one section of the bike path still covered with snow and ice but fortunately it was only about 30m and I was able to detour via the adjacent grassy field. The road and bike paths were as dry as I’ve ever seen them at the end of March in Edmonton. The sand/gravel was also not bad at all.
Here’s a bit of what I saw along the way:

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From Rundle Park on the way back I crossed the bridge to Goldbar Park and followed the southside paths to the 50th Street Bridge where I crossed back to the north side.

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Back on the north side I got off pavement and on to dirt trails.

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These dirt were very dry (and actually a bit too hard for the tire pressure I had).

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It was a great ride. I covered 25K which is more than I probably should have done for the first ride in over four months. My legs handled the easy pace but I was feeling it in the back of my neck from the now-unfamiliar hunched over riding position.

Almost There   Leave a comment

Today may be the day to break my winter cycling hibernation. I was out for a run yesterday and had a chance to assess some of the paved and dirt trails.  There are enough good ones to give it a go and with a high of 12C forecast for this afternoon the only thing standing in my way is getting the bike ready. This is what has held me off so far more than the road/trail conditions. I will need to clean and lube my chain which even with the ease of modern products tend to put me into procrastination mode.
Here is how trails through  Dawson Park looked yesterday:

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Caution required on deteriorated path

And on the dirt trails east of Dawson Park to Capilano Bridge and on towards the 50th Street Bridge it looked like this:

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Beside the trail, looking east towards Capilano Bridge

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Dry gravel path

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Looking across the river

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While the sun-exposed north bank of the river valley is nicely dried, shaded areas such as Kinnaird Ravine, up from the east end of Dawson Park are ugly. I had trouble walking here a day earlier and wouldn’t chance it on two wheels.

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Kinnaird Ravine's icy/slushy trail

Enjoy your ride – maybe I’ll see you on the trails and road.

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Waiting for Spring 2016   1 comment

I haven’t had my bike out yet this year (it’s been 15 weeks since my last ride) but I feel the time is getting near. I did get out for a walk in Edmonton’s river valley yesterday, that gave me a good indication of what to expect on the cycling paths. I walked through Dawson Park and for the most part, the paths are very rideable.  There is a lot of sand and frequent wet spots (that shouldn’t be a problem as long as the temperature is above freezing and/or exposed to the sun). There are however a few hazards that mean a cyclist must not yet adopt the more carefree mindset of summer riding. Here is what I saw:

This path through Dawson Park is typical of the sun-exposed north side of the river valley,  – again, wet and sandy but quite passable

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There is however one habitually bad stretch of the path, 50+ meters north of Dawson Bridge, where it is wet/icy/slushy and extreme caution is required:

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The dogwood beside the path adding some color to an otherwise rather blaek late-winter landscape:

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Another low spot on the path through Dawson Park creates this pond across 90% of the path:

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While the path on the sunny north side of the river valley seem ready for fair weather cyclists (i.e. not those riding fat bikes or studded tires), the paths are the south bank of the valley, I will be avoiding for a least another month. This is a section of path, just west of Capilano bridge on the south side – pretty much coated in a few centimeters of ice:

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I am encouraged about getting an earlier start to this year’s cycling season. After a mild winter without much snow, we seem to be at least a couple of weeks ahead of recent years. I could ride today but at best I will try to locate all of cool weather clothing and do a quick check of the bike (air in tires, chain lubrication etc.)

Soon…

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Posted March 6, 2016 by Randy Talbot in Cycling

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Poor Kayaking but …   1 comment

Here it is November 22nd and I managed to sneak in another ride. Although we had a bit of snow one night this week it had mostly disappeared by this weekend. This Sunday afternoon the sun was out, the temperature around 4C and the paths were dry and clean. No problem for cycling through the river valley but with the North Saskatchewan River clogging up with ice, it would have been a poor day for kayaking (not that I do – not that I wouldn’t like to – but not at this time of year in any case! I digress.)

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The Icy North Saskatchewan River in central Edmonton

The only problem with riding at this time of year is that by mid-afternoon when it is warmest, the sun is already on its way down in the southwest sky making it difficult to see.

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3:15 pm in Edmonton’s Rundle Park

There were not a lot of cyclists out on this November afternoon, but I did see a few.

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Dawson Park

While the paths were for the most part very dry and clean one does need to keep there eyes open  for the occasional ice patch.

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Icy spot in Dawson Park

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Contrasting the icy river with the nice clean bike path.

I post these images mainly for the benefit of anyone who is not familiar with Edmonton and thinking that surely no one could be cycling that far north in November. Sure this is turning out to be an exceptional month but it shows that cycling is possible and the river valley beautiful enough to make the effort worthwhile.

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Me – to prove I really was out there on Nov 22nd 2015.

November Cycling in Edmonton   1 comment

2015 has been another poor year for cycling for me but any November day that I can get out on the bike in Edmonton is a win. Today, November 14, was one of those days. Most years in Edmonton there will be snow on the ground by mid-November and although year-round cycling is becoming increasingly common in this city, it is usually reserved for riders with fat bikes and studded tires. However, “so far so good” this year – the paths were dry so I on my slicks needed only to dress appropriately for the 4C temperature and the experience was enjoyable.

This is what the Edmonton river valley looked like:

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Canada Geese sitting on the frozen surface of a pond in Rundle Park

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An unusual bit of green leaves on some trees at the east end of Rundle Park

It was nice to see a handful of other cyclists out enjoying the afternoon:

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The bare trees of a more typical mid-Autumn landscape in this part of the world

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The climb out of the valley at the west end of Rundle Park

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The descending path into Dawson Park

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The undulating path through Dawson Park

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My riding perspective

I may be pushing my luck in hoping that this wasn’t my last ride of the year but that’s what I’m hoping for.

Seeing the Light   2 comments

The spring has been late in arriving in this part of the world. Here it is the third week of April and I have yet to get my bike on the  road. I thought I was so close a month ago but then winter returned. Of course there are increasing numbers of winter-hearty cyclists who never stop riding just because of cold and snow – to them I tip my cycling cap.

I stopped in at the local MEC today and browsing through the cycling department sure got me thinking and exciting. I was looking at some new fenders for my touring bike and dreaming of some new wheels for my old road bike. However what really caught my eye was bike lights.

What I noticed probably wouldn’t be that big a deal for anyone that has been keeping up with the technology developments but I haven’t been in the market for a new bike light for maybe 20 years. The last light I  bought was state of the art (for the time) but what sticks out was the rechargeable  battery which was the size of a water bottle and intended to fit in a water bottle cage. The headlight itself was a massive incandescent thing (it still remains mounted on my mountain bike, although I haven’t used it for years). It was good and bright – but big!

So what I saw today was lovely compact units – thanks to improvements in light and battery technology. All of the units now use very energy efficient LED “bulbs”. This efficiency means that the batteries can be much smaller – yielding complete units that fit in the palm of your hand.

A great feature of a number of these compact lights was the ability to charge the battery via a USB connection. With hours of battery life and the ability to charge them up any time you are sitting at a computer for a few hours, this design seems ideal for a commuter or recreational rider. Other lights used non-rechargeable, but readily available AA batteries.

One thing I noticed in comparing various units was the amount of light given off. Among the LED I saw 5 and 50 Lumen units. I have yet to test and compare these but I am guessing that the  5 Lumen units would probably be most suited when your main goal is to be seen – say when riding on urban routes with street lighting. The 50 Lumen brightness would seem to be what you need when riding dark paths and need not only to be seen but also to see the road ahead of you. Some of the AA battery powered lights offered over a 100 Lumen brightness.

I have no plans to do night riding in the near future but given the compactness and cost of these little units I will probably pick up a headlight and taillight to tuck into  my pack, “just in case”.

Posted April 19, 2014 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Commuting, Cycling

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The Tour Lives   Leave a comment

After the doping revelations in the fall of 2012, I told myself (and anyone who would listen) that I was done D-O-N-E,  with following professional cycling. There would be no following the 2013 Tour de France for me!

Well easier said than done after a person has been avidly following the sport for years. I did avoid most of the first week  but then got a bit curious and picked up a tidbit of information here or there.

Being away from home/internet for a week made it difficult to follow as did the difficulty in finding live TV coverage feeds once I was back – but I did pay a bit of attention. Although it seemed like it would be a wide open contest, with many contenders it turned out to not be all that competitive in the end. Chris Froome of Team Sky won quite handily after the other big names faded away. Nonetheless, he and his team did ride a smart tour and the victory was deserved.

Posted January 2, 2014 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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Rural Riding at the End of May   1 comment

2013 May 26 – another Sunday morning, another Target the Tour training ride with the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club, starting from a service station on the south side of the Yellowhead Highway, a little west of Ardrossan.

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This day’s route took us North of the highway for a while before returning to the more familiar roads south of Ardrossan. It was a pleasant day and nice to see the countryside greening up. Here are some photos from that day, without further commentary:

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A Late Start to 2013   1 comment

Here in Edmonton winter lasted as long as I ever remember. There was snow on the roads into April and although eager to get back on the bike it seemed as if we were defeated before ever beginning. There was not a long training period before the late-July Tour de l’Alberta which had been my usual early season goal.

Nonetheless I started the season joining  other EBTC members for the Target the Tour training rides starting out at Ardrossan every Sunday morning. May 19th was only my second Sunday ride  and although I didn’t have a lot of training accumulated  I was eager to make up for lost time. If I felt okay I would do the longer (up to 80K?) option

D80-2140 editAs is typical on these group rides I see a lot of the group early on and virtually no one the last couple of hours. However, the rural and farm scenery is always there to keep me company.

Cows on the HillReaching the half way, lunch spot at South Cooking Lake I felt good enough to tackle the long route (although something told me It might not be a good idea). I had one riding partner keen on doing the same things so we set off south along a nicely paved secondary road. At a certain point we would take a smaller road west for a few kilometers to join up with another road taking us North.

D80-2175 editWhen we reached the designated turn-off we looked – hard – twice! This road wasn’t paved at all – just gravel, and loose stuff at that. However considering it was just a couple of Ks it seemed like a better idea to continue than to backtrack. Well, a couple of kilometers of loose, rough and slippery gravel and we realized that there would be a lot more where that came from. At this point we admitted defeat and went back along the gravel road then back up the highway until we could find a paved east-west road.

Oh did I mention the mosquitoes?! They were horrendous along this stretch of gravel – especially bad when we stopped to consult the maps and assess our situation but even when we were on the bikes we weren’t moving fast enough to outrun a swarm of mosquitoes.

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The rest of the ride back was uneventful but it was a bit of a grind at times with a headwind. Then, unfortunately with about 5K to go, I bonked! I completely ran out of fuel reserves and was reduced to crawling (figuratively) back to my car. It was a good day, a good workout but in retrospect, perhaps a little more than I had trained for.

The End   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap!

I’m disappointed – very disappointed, but not entirely surprised. I refer to the the release yesterday (2012/10/10) of the USADA’s “Reasoned Decision” and the subsequent confession statements. I guess the USADA did actually have a case – too bad they presented it as a Lance Armstrong witch hunt. It is now apparent that the entire US Postal Service team/organization was involved and likely other factions within the sport. The findings still need to be reviewed and acted upon by the international body, the UCI, but now I am willing to consider it a done deal.

What sealed it for me were the public confessions, announcements by the previously highly-respected George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer. At this point I really don’t care what Lance did himself. I feel betrayed by that team with which I was so impressed. I feel let down by the sport of professional cycling – I can no longer support it!

I admit I am still curious  about a few thing related to this saga: How Johan Bruyneel will present his defence and how this fallout will affect Lance’s Livestrong brand and work (He has done good work there for the cancer community and I wish him him well). Yes curious, but I won’t be actively following the story.

This is of course not the first time we’ve seen big doping revelations in the sport with the subsequent claims of a new era. Unfortunately it now appears that the new era was not one of just harder and smarter training, improved equipment and tactics, but also an era where the doping cheaters leapt ahead of the detection science. It is sad that there even has to be so much effort put towards the detection system.

I will continue to  write and advocate for cycling – as a means for physical and mental health, for touring and commuting but this will be the last post I will make with regards to professional cycling. No longer will I be spending my mornings in July glued to the coverage of the Tour (nor May’s Vuelta or September’s Giro). Ahh, I will miss them but (and I hate to paint the entire sport and all its participants with the same brush) I can now longer waste my time with a sport in which I don’t have the confidence of completely fair competition.

“This is the end – beautiful friend”

 

 

Posted October 11, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing

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